Kids today just don’t know the joy of maps, or hand-written directions.

I still remember being a passenger in the car and trying to help the driver navigate.  I’m the first to admit I am map-challenged.  GPS’s and Google Maps are awesome inventions and I am sure that arguments between drivers and passenger have had to decrease dramatically.  Of course we now have different problems, like making sure the driver is looking at the road in front of them and not staring at a screen.

Yesterday, I used Google Maps to find a business that was no longer where Google told me it would be.  The outrage!  In all seriousness, it gave me pause. I am so dependent on Google.  And I don’t question it.  I make a lot of decisions based on Google and my belief in my own abilities to navigate.

That is exactly what I have done this week.  Navigated a very hard and bumpy week on my own.

And I am left feeling broken, inadequate, and completely tapped out.

WHY do I do this to myself?  I know, I have heard, I BELIEVE that I can do nothing in my own strength, and yet, time and time again, I revert to my default, wrong thinking: I can do this.  I can push through.  I am a capable, intelligent, resourceful woman.  And in the moment, I think I’m actually doing it.  I’m going to make it.

Then I crash. Physically, emotionally, spiritually.  I’m not made to walk on my own.  None of us are.  There is no strength within me.  Whatever I have, whatever I am, my source of strength comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:1-3).

I fully relate to what Paul says in Romans 7:18-19 (NLT), “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

That is how I feel when I hit bumps in the road.  And lately, there are large potholes everywhere!  Some days, I feel like I’m trying to avoid landmines.   I’m trying to walk around them instead of stopping and leaning on the Lord, who invites me into His loving arms and says: “Abide in ME” (John 15:13).

Why do I put my head down and push through hard times instead of putting my head down and praying?  As I write this, I acknowledge that I want to pray and seek the Lord before as I stumble through hard times.  But my flesh flares up, kicks up, and before I know it, I am doing what I don’t want to do: relying on ME.  There is nothing good that comes from that!

So what do I do?

First, I am so grateful for my Bible Study and the probing questions it asks.  It is through my “Taking the Truth to Heart” that I recognized some habits I have, habits I revert to, when I am stressed and heavy laden.  The Lord has been gracious to bestow growing wisdom, wisdom that comes from His Word alone.  He is training me up to cry out to Him vs. looking inward for a strength that doesn’t exist.

“Abide in me,” He says.  “And I will abide in you” (John 15:13).

Paul goes on to describe his state, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death” (Romans 7:21-24 NLT)?

He then says,” Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord”  (Romans 7:25 NLT).

We are not left to deal with our sinful natures on our own.  Jesus Christ our Lord has paid the price for us.  He has overcome the world; we are victorious through Him.  But we must stay connected to Him, we must abide in Him.

One of my action items this week is to journal and ask God to show me the signs – when I begin to fall into one of my “old girl” habits.  I want to acknowledge my weakness before Him – before I try to fix my weakness on my own.  The Lord has given ALL of us an unfailing GPS – His Word.  May I follow HIS map and not my own.

Growing in Grace

 

 

I may have gotten in one of the dumbest arguments ever with my husband last night. I’ll spare you the details, but we argued over who watered the ferns last summer. Yes, you read that correctly, insert monkey covering his eyes emoji here!

We’re almost finished with our most recent study Jesus, I Need You this semester and the Lord has opened my eyes greatly to the deep rooted unbelief that’s still in my heart and the idolatry of myself. I am thankful. I need to say that again for my own heart to remember—I am thankful. I’m thankful to see the ugliness in my heart, because it reminds me of the truth, that apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15).

About a year ago I was in small group going through the Falling In Love Again With Your Husband study and confessing to my small group that I didn’t want to submit to my husband and wash off the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher because the dishes get clean either way. Most nights my husband won’t know that I’ve done what he’s asked or not. My Abigail said to me, “But God knows.” I brushed it off, “yea, yea, I know, but I want my husband to notice, I want him to know that I’m sacrificing for him, so that he can thank me/praise me for it” is what I thought to myself.

As I’ve gone through our current study I keep being reminded of that brief few minutes in small group over a year ago. Last night I fought to the death over the fact that I watered the ferns last summer. I hated the thought of my husband taking credit for something that I did. As I thought more about why in the world I would argue about something so insignificant I realized my fear of not being seen, noticed, being lost in a sense, was appearing to become a reality as my husband didn’t see something that I took time to do every other day. My fears of not being known, no one caring, all came crashing in on my mind and so I fought about who watered the ferns in an effort to say “see me,” “praise me,” “love me.”

Side note before I continue on—my husband loves me dearly. I know this. He sees me and he does appreciate me, but I was seeking something from him that night that he was never meant to have to fill for me. And if I’m being totally honest here, I think he watered the ferns more than me, insert two emojis of monkeys covering their eyes here. What a gift even an argument over watering ferns can be when it opens my eyes to deep unbelief in the One who loves me perfectly and draws me nearer to Him in the process.

Going back to my Abigail’s comment about God knowing I started to wonder why that wasn’t a bigger deal to me. Why do I feel like I always need to cross off a to-do list, accomplish, produce? A recent question in our Jesus, I Need You study was something along the lines of what is my primary goal each day? I answered with crossing off a to-do list. If I don’t accomplish something or have something to show for my day then there’s not even an option of being recognized. I see my flesh yearning to be seen and praised so that it can feel pacified, at peace for the moment in another humans’ acknowledgment. This leads to unrealistic expectations placed on my husband and inevitably my children later. This leads to disappointment if something isn’t noticed or hurt feelings when I have to bring attention to myself and shame when I feel like I’m “fishing” for a compliment. I see my selfishness as I’m focused on myself, seeking peace, comfort, love, approval, rest, in all the wrong places and the unbelief as I choose to not believe that there’s a real person this can be found in.

“All of us like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53:6). This verse has been in our kitchen all month, right in front of my face each day at lunch time as I practice it with my son. Oh how quickly my feelings can lead me astray and justify the way I feel, justify the silly arguments and the things I feel I “need.” Even far enough astray to see the truth right in front of me in my kitchen, but not have ears to hear this truth and see the reality of myself as a sheep.

Sadly the argument about who watered the ferns went into the morning as I just let my feelings and lies in my mind spiral farther and farther down into my deep idolatry of self—woe is me, I’m not loved, no one cares what I do, I’m not appreciated. I was lost in my own head.

I prayed to the Lord telling Him how lost I felt. That was the first time I’d even verbalized feeling lost, which I believe was His grace in and of itself. The parable of the lost sheep came to mind.

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:1-7).

Over the past 20 months of motherhood thus far I’ve had more opportunities to not be recognized. I come from the business world where goals are set, goals are met and then praised. Now, I could easily go a whole day, a whole week, and have nothing to show for it. I’ve fought this reality, but the Lord is allowing me to see that this is truly a gift. I believe the Lord said to me the other day, “I don’t show you your sin so that you can do better, I show you your sin so that you can love me more.” It’s a gift to lean on Him and learn to love Him more. It allows me to ask the question and really seek what the truth is about how God sees me, what He thinks in moments that no one else will ever see, let alone praise. He’s giving me desire to draw nearer to Him, to thirst of Him, my true love. It allows me by His grace to put what I say I believe into practice. What will I choose to believe when I feel lost and unnoticed? Whose words will matter more?

I’ve been so convicted over my self-focus towards my family and those in my life. I constantly feel feelings of “they have no idea how much I already do.” My initial thoughts about that are to say “ok how do I fix this? I will serve in this way this week, reach out to this person this week, etc.” This isn’t lasting and again all for myself. Instead, resting in the true love I have been given, believing in His love, in the Gospel, allows for a true love for my husband and children and others overflowing from the love lavished on me instead of unrealistic expectations of needing their recognition always.

I’ve been trying to steal God’s glory for myself, but really glorifying Him is the goal. From the Westminster catechism, what is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I want to know what God thinks of me. I want to know how He sees me. How He loves me. And I want to believe it with my all. To know this, I must know Him. It really is all about Him. What grace the Lord is giving me in this season where I see that maybe nobody else is going to see what goes on during a day except Him, but seeing that He is going to be all that matters. I’m thankful to see this. I’m thankful to desire to pursue Him and seek this more, to seek and know the truth and am praying to continue to desire this, to continue to seek Him.

Lord please give me grace to say with Paul, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2 Corinthians 2:2) and to believe that I will never be lost because my God is the good shepherd, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

Planted for His Glory

One of the things I love about Thistlebend studies is the emphasis on taking God’s Word to heart.  We do this by choosing a verse from our daily study that stands out to us, and then, each week, we choose one verse from the daily verses we have selected.  This verse becomes our “Taking the Truth to Heart” for the coming week.  We share this with the ladies in our small groups, along with practical ways we plan to apply the verse to our lives. I always put my verse on my phone’s calendar so it will pop up each day at a certain time. This helps me to pause, remember my verse, and consider how I am applying it.

I feel led to share my verse this week because the verse really struck me and revealed to me something significant about my heart.  My verse is Rev 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

The verses prior to this one provide context. There is a description of heavenly beings who worship God, day and night.  The Bible tells us that whenever the living creatures give glory, the 24 elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev 4:11).

They worship God, day and night. They do not stop.

My first thought (to excuse my lack of worship) when I read this verse was, “well, those creatures and elders are all in the presence of God; they see His glory and power in a way those of us on earth cannot see Him.”  And I think maybe that is true.  In our earthly bodies and with our finite minds, we cannot see God the same way the heavenly creatures who surround Him do.

But then I thought, wait.  Those beings are with God, and now that they see Him, they cannot stop worshiping. All day and night. They are so deeply captivated by God and enthralled with His presence that they literally cannot stop worshiping Him. This brought me to thoughts of how I worship God.

Church. Bible Study. Song. Prayer.  Some daily, some weekly, but they sure aren’t all day, every day. In fact, I was convicted that I had not been following directions in our Bible Study to end our daily study in prayer on our knees. I can’t be bothered to kneel before God when I pray! If I’m brutally honest (and this is what Taking the Truth to Heart inspires – honesty with oneself), I approach God in a casual way. I don’t bow before Him. I don’t kneel before Him. I don’t treat Him with awe and reverence.

People in countries with any sort of monarchy bow before their earthly kings and queens. But how many of us bow before the King of the Universe?

For me (and I’m still meditating on the “why”), I think it’s because I don’t know God as my King. I still sit on the throne of my life. I occupy a seat that does not belong to me.

I remember Laurie sharing a quote with us from A.W. Tozer: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I believe Tozer is right. I want to be more mindful of God than of myself.  I want to bow before Him, and not the idols I have created. I want to love Him with all of my mind, heart, and strength. I’m so thankful to even have these desires, my His grace alone.

There are days my faith is tested and waivers. There are days I wonder where God is because He feels far away, and I feel like I don’t know Him—or myself. I praise God for the provision of a Bible Study that challenges me to look into my heart and ask myself what I believe. I thank Him for allowing me to look inside my heart and see the sin that’s there and that He gives me desire for repentance. And I praise God for His Word, which teaches, trains, reproves, and instructs.

My application for the week? Pray on my knees each day. Assume a posture of humility as I pray to the One I know is my King, to help me begin to experience Him as my King. I may not feel like He’s my King or act like it right now, but I know that He is so by His grace I will be putting my flesh to death this week that wants me to be casual with my creator and King and get on my knees and worship Him!

Do you worship the Lord in this way? Is He your King?

Growing in Grace